The NBA Defensive Player of the Year award is always hotly contested and much revered. Typically, large 7’0″ dominate the final voting but in an era of increasing small ball play, more wings are called upon to lockdown elite scorers. There was an argument to be made for all of Tony Allen, Andre Iguodala and Lebron James for this season’s honors. Allen has long been a quicky yet extremely effective on ball defender who hounds ballhandlers with strength and guile. He is a member of the second best defensive team in terms of defensive efficiency and was on the NBA All-Defensive First Team a season ago.
Andre Iguodala was traded abruptly from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Denver Nuggets in the 4 team Dwight Howard megadeal. He picked up where he left off, stifling wings of all size and speed. His incredible length and recovery ability allows him to stay in front of almost all who dare to challenge him. Lebron James is rightfully considered a dominant two way player but there were reports of his defensive effort slipping in the first half the NBA season. Towards the end, he clearly regained form and was the key part of the long winning streak for the Heat but his slow start cost him this award.
In the big man category, three names stick out: Serge Ibaka, Joakim Noah and Marc Gasol. Traditional stats point to Serge Ibaka’s worth, as he led the league in blocked shots and blocks per game. But playing defense in the NBA is a lot more complex than that. He isn’t the most mobile player and can also get pushed down into the paint on post ups. Still the voters love his elite weakside help and he garnered enough votes to finish third in the voting, right behind Lebron James. Joakim Noah logged a lot of minutes for Tom Thibodeau’s club in the absence of Derrick Rose. He accomplishes a lot through hustle and effort as well as a massive amount of raw strength. Ultimately, he came in fourth in the voting.
The winner of the Defensive Player of the Year Award is Marc Gasol, and deservingly so. He anchored the best defense on the Grizzlies, alongside Tony Allen, and was lauded across many media outlets as the new dominant force in the NBA. According to NBA.com’s stats, Memphis enjoys a 7 point per 100 possession stiffer defense with Gasol on the floor compared to on the bench. Blocks and rebounds cannot come close to telling the entire story of Gasol’s impact.
As for the Hawks, the answer is pretty obvious as to the team’s Defensive Player of the Year. Josh Smith is once again an imposing figure wherever he is on the floor. His accolades have been covered here and in many other spots. The Hawks maintained a top 10 defense even with the rest of the roster filled with either decent or poor defenders mainly due to Smoove’s exploits. More can be said but it’s been pretty evident to Hawks fans that he has been the key cog in keeping the Hawks in many games throughout his 9 year career.